A skin rash can be defined as any type of skin inflammation in which the skin shows a change in texture, color, or appearance, resulting in scaly, dry, cracked, itchy, red, discolored, or bumpy skin. A rash can be extremely painful at times. It can affect a single part of the body or it may cover the body extensively. Rashes frequently appear on children. Schools and daycares warn parents and guardians about incidences of hand, foot, and mouth disease and chickenpox. Rashes may come and go in the early years of life. Rashes also affect adults.
There are numerous types of skin rashes and every rash has a cause. When a rash appears, the body is indicating something is wrong. In most cases skin rashes are not dangerous and resolve on their own. However, there are some rashes that may depict a more serious condition and require immediate evaluation and care.
Why Skin Rashes Appear: Causes
Rashes appear for different reasons, often as reactions to something in the environment. Some of the general causes of a skin rash may include:
- Skin Reaction to Medications: Any specific medication can result in a skin rash. The reaction may be allergic or a side effect of the medication.
- Infections: Certain infections can give birth to skin rashes. An infection can be bacterial, fungal, viral or parasitic.
- Autoimmune Diseases: When an individual is suffering from any autoimmune disease, where his/her immune system starts attacking healthy tissues, this may cause skin rashes to surface.
The following are different causes of skin rashes that specifically explain the reason and type of their occurrence:
Contact dermatitis may occur when the skin comes into contact with any allergen. The irritating factor causes the skin to become itchy, scaly, reddish or raw. It may also form blisters that regularly ooze or seep. These blisters may appear crusty at times. The rash often continues for several days. Some of the common allergens may be present in skincare products, deodorant, cloth dyes, latex gloves, certain chemicals, nickel, citrus fruits, or poisonous plants including both oak and ivy.
Fleas are small insects that survive on a host’s blood such as a dog, cat, or human. They are not flying insects yet can jump around from one place to another and can infest a home quickly. Flea bites often result in a skin irritation leaving an itchy area and red bumps on the skin’s surface. They frequently appear in clusters on lower areas of your leg where the insects have the best access. If flea bites are scratched continuously, the skin may be further irritated and a bacterial infection may occur.
Ringworm is a type of skin fungal infection also called dermatophytosis infection. The rash developed by this infection is similar to a ring-shaped worm and this is indicated by its name. Initially, this infection takes form of red, itchy patches on the area affected but it may gradually spread to other body parts like the scalp, nails, feet, beard, groin, etc.
Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a skin condition in which dry patches are formed on different parts of body, especially the forearms and hands, and they are extremely itchy. The affected area becomes cracked and rough. Mostly eczema occurs in infants and children and is usually linked with allergic rhinitis and asthma. The principal cause of the occurrence of eczema is unknown, but environmental factors and genetics have been shown to play a vital role in developing eczema. These patches may weep, ooze or take on a crusty appearance.
Impetigo is a common skin infection that mostly afflicts children under five years of age. It is highly contagious and develops most commonly on the legs, arms and face, specifically around the chin, nose and mouth. This infection is often triggered by insect bites, minor wounds or on a rash like eczema. However, healthy skin can also develop impetigo. Impetigo results in an irritating rash that usually produces oozing blisters, which form a yellowish crust.
Fifth disease results in bright red rashes that are round in shape. They appear on legs, arms and cheeks. It is also called slapped cheek disease. It is a viral infection that commonly attacks children with weak immune systems. The symptoms of fifth disease are similar to flu, which include fatigue, sore throat, headache, runny nose and nausea. These rashes are not contagious and may last for a few weeks.
When an infection captures a single nerve, it can result in a shingles rash that lasts four weeks, on average. This infection occurs as a result of the reactivation of the chickenpox virus called varicella zoster, in the nerve tissue. The rashes take a form of wet blisters that are painful and itchy and leak fluid on spouting. Symptoms of shingles mainly include chills, fever, fatigue and headaches.
Measles is a disease caused by a virus rubeola that breeds in the cells that line the lungs and throat. It stands among highly contagious diseases that spread through the surroundings where the infected person sneezes or coughs. In measles, reddish brown rashes appear all over the body. Tiny reddish spots are visible in the mouth with bluish-white centers. Measles rashes last for about one week on average. The rashes caused by measles are usually extremely itchy.
Scabies is a condition of skin in which microscopic mites live on the epidermis for several months, causing it to develop red, itchy rashes. Scabies is extremely contagious and is passed directly through skin contact. The primary symptoms of scabies include intense itching, especially at nighttime. The scabies rash appears as tiny bites and bumps under the skin. They look like tracks burrowed by mites. If the patient scratches the affected area continuously, sores will likely develop.
When to See Dermatologist
Be sure to consult your dermatologist if you find any rashes on your skin (or that of a family member) that do not go away on their own or are so intrusive that you have difficulty performing daily tasks. A medical dermatologist will evaluate the rash to identify the cause and make a diagnosis on the basis of the description of the rash and accompanying symptoms which may include:
- discoloration of the skin where rashes are present
- elevation of pain
- tightening of muscles in the throat or extreme itchiness
- difficulty breathing
- find swelling of the face or extremities
- high fever
- headache or neck pain
- diarrhea or continuous vomiting
Other symptoms that should not be ignored include:
- pain in joints
- a sore throat
- rapid spreading of the rash to other parts of the body
- signs of infection like pus, crusting, swelling, and extreme pain
- Over-the-counter ointments or antihistamines are ineffective